January 31, 2023

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In three counties there is no more water for irrigation. The level of the Danube also dropped by 13 meters

A worrying announcement was made by the Ministry of Agriculture: in three counties there is no more water for irrigation, because the level of the Danube has dropped a lot.

In Olt, Dolj and Teleorman, sand islands have appeared on the river bed and the pumping stations have nowhere to draw water from. Over one hundred thousand hectares are affected. And the situation brings back into focus the outdated irrigation systems.

Seen from above, the Danube is lower and lower. Near the town of Pietroșani from Teleorman, the islands in the middle of the river are increasingly exposed.

Ştefan Muscă, farmer: “The water had to be another 12-13 m high, to come all the way to the pier at the trees, we now had to be in the water… The crops are 200 meters away from the place and I can’t water them.”

We walk a few more kilometers and reach Zimnicea. Here, for example, a tongue of land turned in just a few weeks into a sandy beach that stretches for tens of kilometers.

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Mayor: “We are at the mercy of God”

With the flow of the Danube decreasing, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that in three counties, Teleorman, Dolj and Olt, it is no longer possible to irrigate. Farmers take a long look at the canals that have been dry for several days and are already calculating their losses.

Farmer: “We no longer have water in the canals and crops are compromised to a large extent. I don’t know how we’re going to manage from now on.”

Sorin Sandu, the mayor of Calarasi: “We are at the mercy of God, because since the level of the Danube dropped and we no longer have access to the outlet from the Danube, only God can help us. Only raising the level of the Danube is a solution.”

Paradoxically, even where there is water for irrigation from the Danube, there is no infrastructure. In Pietrișu, for example.

Larisa Antal, PROTV correspondent: “Beyond the forest behind me flows the Danube. Although there would be water for irrigation, the channel through which this could be done, you see, is in the works. Workers say they only started work three weeks ago, and the crops are suffering. See, that field of corn looks like wheat, it’s so dry.”

According to hydrologists, throughout the Romanian sector, the Danube’s levels will decrease by up to 15 centimeters per day.

The Minister of Transport from Bulgaria asked for the help of the Romanian Government, which has already issued a decision for the Lower Danube River Administration to intervene with a dredge. The procedure is long and involves significant expenses.

Our biggest river transport company is already making huge losses.

Cătălin Șigănuș, director of Navrom: “We are talking about millions of euros, yes. A state of force majeure has been declared. Today we will notify customers as a result of the blocking of navigation, everything that means the commitment for upstream cargo Zimnicea will be cancelled.”

In Israel, farming is done on sand

With an outdated irrigation system and a constantly changing climate, Romanian agriculture needs investment. Here, for example, is what has been happening for years in Israel, a country with an arid climate and desert, which is now among the strongest agrarian states in the world.

“Only sand here, about 20 meters of sand. Sometimes it is not good to use sand, because it is not a very good environment, it is very poor, but we prefer it, it is very good. We use it as a base medium. It is easy to use, we have computer control, we have drip irrigation, we can give it as much water as we want”.

Here too, some farmers have invested in such drip irrigation installations, which give the plants exactly the amount of water they need.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, at the national level there are more than 100,000 hectares affected by drought. The relevant minister claims that they will start rehabilitation works on the canals where irrigation cannot be done due to the drought. Too late and too little for the crop affected by the lack of rain.

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